When star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic bagged a double against Preston to help secure Fulham promotion to the Premier League in May – many of the club’s fans were happy with simply being back in the top-flight. They couldn’t have possibly foreseen the success the Cottagers have experienced through the first couple of months of their 2022/23 campaign, which sees them currently sitting in sixth position in the table with 11 points from a possible 21.
After opening their season with an unexpected draw with reigning FA and League Cup champions Liverpool, you could be forgiven for thinking that performance was somewhat of an aberration. A Fulham side up for the contest and still riding the highs of promotion – against a Liverpool outfit feeling the effects of a gruelling 2021/22 schedule that saw them empty the tank in pursuit of a historic quadruple.
However, that wasn’t the case, there’s a steel and inner-belief that exists within this Fulham team that has been incredible to witness. After upsetting the betting football odds by jagging a point in the aforementioned game against Liverpool, the Lilywhites have secured wins over in-form teams Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion – to coincide with a further draw when they took on Wolverhampton Wanderers away from home.
Even in their losses to league leaders Arsenal and third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, they proved that they are far from an easy beat. Their resilience on the defensive side of the ball, creativity in attack and consistency at the set piece ensures they’re a nightmare match-up on any given night. The resurgence of Mitrovic has particularly been a bright spot, with the Serbian sitting joint second in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with six goals from just seven games.
It’s a stark contrast from the Mitrovic we saw the last time he suited up in the Premier League, as the then-26-year-old only managed four goals in 31 appearances. However, it appears as though manager Marco Silva has been able to get the best out of him – and it comes as no surprise when you hear the way in which the Portuguese top man speaks about his striker.
“I remember we had a conversation even before he started to work with me,” Silva said. “When I signed for the club, I rang him on the phone when he was on holiday.
“Everything was so clear between me and him. Straight away, he knew what would be the demands, the plan, the philosophy. He felt from that moment that I wanted to get the best from him.
“I called him to make him feel good on the pitch, with a clear idea. He knows that he always has someone behind him, supporting him, but at the same time demanding a lot from him.”
Their first match after the conclusion of the international break will be a challenging one, as they take on an underperforming yet talented Newcastle United at Craven Cottage. There was plenty of buzz surrounding the Magpies heading into this season, and they will feel they have something to prove given their poor start. That is a recipe for danger if you’re Fulham – a squad who can’t afford to become complacent and rest on their laurels after a strong start.